The revised baseball stadium draft lease agreed to Friday by D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams appears to give away even more city assets, still fails to provide for a true cap on stadium costs, still fails to legally specify who will pay for cost overruns, fails to provide for possibly shifting the stadium from South Capitol to a far less-expensive RFK Stadium site, and should be rejected immediately if a vote is taken by the Council, a citizens’ coalition said today.
“By not specifically addressing the cost overruns in a legally binding manner as Chairman Cropp herself demanded, the deal is still deficient and must be refused by the Council,” said David Mallof, a longtime D.C. resident who recently testified before the Council on the stadium deal’s failure to share the financial risks and rewards in a congruent manner.
BetterDeal4DC, a coalition of individuals and organizations opposed to public financing of a stadium, said the revised draft lease appears in certain respects to be even worse than the previous draft lease. According to news accounts, the revised draft lease — which has not yet been released to the public — expands the giveaway of public assets to Major League Baseball (MLB) by including a provision for the city to split with the team the proceeds of land sold for development at the south end of the stadium (57.5% for the city, and 42.5% for the team).
“By splitting these proceeds, Major League Baseball is taking more public assets and yet is bringing no more money to the deal to cover the incredible spiraling, out-of-control costs for a stadium at the South Capitol site,” said John Capozzi, former chairperson of the Barney Circle Neighborhood Association.
BetterDeal4DC said it could not see how city negotiators, after allowing MLB to receive virtually all of the revenue generated from the stadium, could then agree to split with MLB the added proceeds from land south of the stadium that will be expropriated by eminent domain and then subsequently sold to private interests for development. Likewise, the organization said the Mayor must explain why there is still no requirement that MLB and/or the new (yet-to-be-named) team owner pay for any cost overruns on the project, as has been customary in most recent stadium projects.
BetterDeal4DC said it appears from the marginal changes reportedly made to the draft lease that no serious negotiating on key issues went on between the city and Major League Baseball from the time Williams pulled the initial draft lease from Council consideration in late December until now. The baseball deal continues to be the biggest financial giveaway of a professional sports facility that any city has ever negotiated for the exclusive use of one team.
The organization said the Council should tell the Mayor to remove his current negotiating team and insist upon the original terms of the baseball agreement which caps the city’s all-inclusive contribution of public financing at $535 million — including costs of land acquisition, environmental remediation, parking, roads, Metro and other infrastructure improvements. Any further negotiations with MLB must include Councilmembers critical of the draft lease as ex-officio members of the city’s negotiating team, BetterDeal4DC said.
“The Mayor may well have wasted critical time this past month by drumming up what appears to be a six-figure, feel-good public relations campaign to sell a weak stadium deal to the public. He surely wasted time by unethically sponsoring a campaign fundraiser for Councilmember Kathleen Patterson together with the main local lobbyist for Major League Baseball while a vote on the stadium draft lease is imminent,” said Mallof.
BetterDeal4DC said the lease should contain the same major provision as the $535 million stadium financing package, approved by the Council in December 2004, that would permit the city to shift the stadium to an RFK site.
“RFK has the infrastructure, adequate Metro, ample parking, no land acquisition costs, no legal actions over land acquisition that could tie up the site for months or years, and already known environmental issues,” said Shawn McCarthy, director of the sports watchdog group League of Fans. “This is in stark contrast to the far more expensive South Capitol site with its lack of infrastructure, inadequate Metro facilities, lack of parking, rising land acquisition costs that could go even higher with court decisions favoring landowners, and unknown environmental issues.”
Contact the following key DC Councilmembers and urge them to Vote to reject the new draft lease:
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League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
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